Three Years of The Simple Dollar: My 25 Favorite Articles of the Past Year

Three years ago today, I officially launched The Simple Dollar. It’s been a crazy ride.

Each year, on the anniversary of the launch, I’ve highlighted my 25 favorite articles from the previous twelve months of entries. These aren’t necessarily the best articles, just the ones I enjoyed writing the most. Here’s the list from the first year and the list from the second year.

Without further ado, here are my twenty five favorite articles from the third year of The Simple Dollar. (I also have some extra thoughts that will be appearing later today.)

Christmas Inspiration from a Stick and a Cardboard Box When writing this, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the many wonderful Christmases I had when I was a child. Christmas isn’t about things at all – it’s about experiences and people.

Seven Tactics for Turning Short-Term Intensity Into Long-Term Intensity You can’t start a fire without a spark, but unless you tend to that fire carefully, it can burn itself out and you’re left with nothing at all.

Fifteen Tactics for Maximizing Your Investment in Reading for Personal Growth Reading is one of the best ways to make yourself grow as a person, but often that growth isn’t found in speed-reading the latest Stephen King novel. Here are some tactics to make an enjoyable, lazy afternoon curled up with a book into something that can genuinely help you to grow as a person. I think my love of reading really comes through here.

The Limits of Frugality: What’s Next When You Can’t Cut Any More? I usually find that people haven’t cut very much at all when they believe they’ve cut to the bone, but sometimes people really have trimmed away all the fat they can. When you’re living off ramen, beans, and rice and still need a boost, here are some things to try.

When Your Financial State Improves, Do Your Frugal Standards Change? I think they do. What actually seems to happen is that the value of your time goes up. Instead of filling your spare time with something that earns a return of $5 an hour, you’re more likely to want to spend that time with family, doing something fulfilling like a family game night.

How I Look at Economic News: Beyond the Talking Heads I felt that the apocalyptic economic paranoia of late 2008 and early 2009 was completely overblown and I took the entire idea to task several times. This was perhaps my favorite article about the situation because of how it ties to the real world so directly.

The Bills Your Parents Didn’t Have When you compare the financial situation of a recent college graduate today to one from thirty years ago, things look vastly different. That new graduate is often buried in debt and is facing a big pile of monthly bills, neither of which were faced by a college graduate thirty years ago. I riff on that idea here.

The Giving Pocket Quite often, while stumbling through life, we’ll find a situation where immediate charity can really make a difference. I have a giving pocket for just those situations. The story I tell here, about the poor boy and the dumpster and the food, really tears me up.

Some Thoughts on Building a Successful Marriage A successful marriage requires a few key ingredients. Without them, marital success will be incredibly difficult. I find that I often rely on my wife almost as though she were a part of me. Without a lot of trust and a well-built relationship, that would be impossible.

Personal Finance and 1,000 True Fans I went down an interesting philosophical road here, one that has been on my mind a lot as of late. What does it really mean to give of yourself to others? What do we really have of value to give? What can we fairly and reasonably expect in return – or should we expect anything at all?

A Step-By-Step Guide to Building a Big, Healthy Emergency Fund For many people, the idea of having several months’ worth of cash in a savings account seems like an impossible and unrealistic goal. It doesn’t have to be. Here, I walk through how to build one, focusing more on the psychology than offering just another how-to list.

A Guide to Making Inexpensive and Delicious Homemade Pizza This is one of my favorite food posts. Pizza night is a tradition at our house (often on Friday nights, but not always) and it’s something we all enjoy and treasure.

Is Suze Right? Do Emergency Funds Now Trump Debt Repayment? Suze Orman made a seemingly sensible argument that people should focus on their emergency funds during a down economy. However, I felt the opposite case needed addressing – that by the time we recognize that the economy is down, it’s too late to build any sort of large emergency fund.

A Tour of My Messenger Bag My messenger bag is my mobile office (in fact, I’m using the laptop I carry in that bag to compose this very post). Here’s a guided tour through it, exposing every little nook and cranny. I think such things are a very intimate way to look at a person’s life.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Deal-Finding Homepage I don’t like deals for the sake of deals. Instead, I prefer to quickly sift them, looking only at offers that will directly be useful to me. To do this, I’ve set up a deal-finding homepage that enables me to automatically find just the deals I want from all over the ‘net by just loading a single web page.

The Reliability Bell Curve: What Does “More Reliability” Actually Mean? Buying something that’s more reliable than something else isn’t a guarantee that it will last longer. Instead, you’re merely playing the odds – the more reliable item has better odds of living a long life. Thus, when you hear of cases of typically-reliable items not lasting long or of typically-unreliable items lasting forever, they’re usually just the outliers.

12 Ways My Wife Quietly Makes Our Life Work Without Sarah, The Simple Dollar simply wouldn’t be sustainable. She might not contribute directly, but her indirect contributions are constant and bountiful.

Personal Finance 101: Why Do I Need Credit At All? Dave Ramsey often preaches a credit-free lifestyle. What he leaves out is that one’s credit report is often automatically scanned by all kinds of places to get a quick thumbnail sketch of your reliability. If you don’t have that, it can result in higher insurance rates, among other things.

Ten Great Ways to Make Powerful Visual Reminders of Your Personal Finance (and Other) Goals Writing down and specifying your goals is a powerful way to get started on a better path, but how do you prolong the magic? Here are ten really good ways to keep those goals in mind all the time as you work towards something better.

Can You Actually Earn Reasonable Money from Mechanical Turk? This was just a very fun post to write, from beginning to end. Playing around with Mechanical Turk and then trying to determine if it was actually worthwhile was a great exercise.

Are You a Money Victim? Victimhood is an incredibly dangerous trap to fall into. When you blame others for your problems, you’re avoiding looking within to find solutions.

How Low Can You Go? Vegetarian Burrito Bowls This was my favorite entry in the summer “How Low Can You Go?” food series, mostly because I thought it provided the most intimate view of how we live our life.

Helicopter Parenting, Baby Boomers, and Financial Dependence Here, I make the case for why “helicopter parenting” puts both parent and child on an extremely dangerous personal finance track. I would rather my child be independent and need nothing from me than friendship and occasional advice when they reach adulthood. And maybe a helping hand with the grandchildren, of course.

The Essential Bookshelf 2009: The Eleven Books That Rise Above the Rest These are the books that influence my personal finance thinking more than any others. In other words, if you are looking for some books to read, this is probably a great list to start with.

Mirror Neurons: Why Watching Others Succeed Won’t Help You Succeed I find areas where other fields of science and human knowledge border on personal finance and personal behavior to be endlessly fascinating. Plus, this is as good an argument as any to turn off the television and do something.

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